Speaking to reporters, Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski addressed the criticism he has received for the team’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
With a 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals dropping their record to 5-8, the Cleveland Browns have all but been eliminated from postseason contention.
And as fans look for blame when it comes to what has been a largely disappointing 2022 campaign, it’s head coach Kevin Stefanski who has found himself in their crosshairs.
Take one look at any Browns-centric conversation on social media and Stefanski’s job security — or lack thereof — is bound to come up.
After being named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2020 for his efforts guiding Cleveland to an 11-5 record and the Browns’ first postseason appearance since 2002, the 40-year-old has amassed a 13-17 record over the course of the past two seasons and appears poised to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.
As such, some fans have already taken to calling for Stefanski to be fired — if not now, then at the end of the season.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, the former Minnesota Vikings assistant was asked about the criticism he has received.
“I think all of that goes with the territory,” Stefanski replied. “As you can imagine, I kind of keep the focus on what I can control, what is going on in our building and those type of things. Always looking for ways to improve. Always looking for ways to put our guys in position to succeed. That is what I have to do.”
While criticism of Stefanski has lingered throughout the season as Cleveland totaled a 4-7 record during star quarterback Deshaun Watson’s 11-game suspension, it was especially amplified on Sunday in marked Watson’s second start.
In particular, many questioned the head coach’s decision to run a play-action pass with Jacoby Brissett on a 4th and 1 from the Bengals’ 25-yard line on the team’s opening drive, which resulted in the backup quarterback overthrowing Donovan Peoples-Jones for a turnover on downs.
Asked about his aggressive nature — the Browns lead the league in fourth down conversion attempts — Stefanski stood by his thought process.
“It is just trying to put our guys in position to make a play, stay on the field and convert potential threes into sevens,” Stefanski said. “It is a philosophy that I believe in. We are going to try to be aggressive, and I think our players understand that we are trying to be smart while being aggressive.”
As for what’s left of Cleveland’s season with the playoffs appearing out of reach, all eyes will be on the continued development of Watson.
And while the results have thus far been mixed, Stefanski’s job status moving forward will likely be linked to his ability to mesh with his new star quarterback.
“I am encouraged with how he played yesterday,” Stefanski said of Watson on Monday. “He is going to continue to get better, and I think we will continue to get better as an offense with him.”